After coming clean about the $11,000 of credit card debt I racked up without really trying, I did a follow up post with some tips on starting to gain financial control. These two posts have been some of the most popular posts on Beth’s Journey, so perhaps I should switch to a debt blog instead of a weight loss one?! =)
It’s just funny because I think I am probably the last person on earth you want to take financial advice from, but because there’s been so much interest, it’s time for the next post of this series – a list of tips on saving money while still leading a healthy life.
It’s very easy to assume that eating well and exercising costs a lot much money, and if you don’t put a little time in, you shop at expensive health stores without a list, and you buy every new gadget for working out that you see on the internet, then yes, it can be expensive. However, with just a little thought and planning, you can still live a really healthy life and do it on the cheap. Here’s my top ten tips!
1.) Meal Plan.
I know. You don’t want to hear it, but I promise you – planning your meals will save you SO much money. And you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am with meal planning, you can just plan out 2-3 dinners a week to start and make enough for leftovers for lunch. Planning your meals will save you tons because you won’t be buying things you don’t need, you won’t be letting food go bad and throwing it away, and you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch… which brings me to tip #2.
2.) Bring your lunch to work. Every day.
Just do it. I’ve heard so many people complain about having no money, yet each day I watch them go out and buy their lunch. If you don’t feel like packing your lunch each day, bring in a loaf of wheat bread, a bag of salad, a pack of turkey or other deli meat, and you can eat that all week for lunch. Keep some whole fruit, a few cans of soup, and a bag of almonds at your desk for snacks. If bringing your lunch to work every single day is unreasonable for you, bring it 3-4 days a week and treat yourself to lunch out once or twice a week at the most. This one will add up big.
3.) Make coffee at home!
I used to buy my coffee out each day. Two coffees x $2 each = $4/day = $20/week = $80/month. Yikes! After I realized how much of a money suck this was, I bought this mug that I highly highly recommend. It keeps things hot or cold for HOURS, which is better than the Styrofoam cups you get from coffee places! It also saves me a lot of money each month (and allows me to control how much milk/cream is going in!)
4.) Take advantage of living social, groupon, and buywithme, but have your limits.
I found a really cool one recently called Zozi, which focuses on fitness/outdoor adventure deals for active people. Just be careful you’re not overbuying these things and purchasing deals you wouldn’t otherwise. I get lots of healthy restaurant deals, running store gift certificates, and other fitness deals to places I’d go anyways or exercises I’d purchase at full price. The best one I’ve gotten lately was $20 for 6 yoga classes right in my neighborhood! I’ve already been twice, have signed up for the other four, and am LOVING it. If you hate getting these emails, there are sites that aggregate all the deals for your area so you just have one email in your inbox with everything (like this one).
5.) Make healthy dates with friends!
Instead of going out to the bar for happy hour, invite one (or a few) friend over for a healthy date. Go for a power walk, a run, or work out in the gym if you have one, and then make a healthy dinner together. If it’s several friends, do a potluck and put each person in charge of one thing while you make the main dish (salad, veggie, WINE). You get to hang out with friends, be healthier, and save money. Check, check, check!
6.) Eat less meat.
I am not preaching here, I’m just saying – non meat sources of protein are WAY cheaper than meat, especially if you’re going for organic, free-range, or local meat. You can get a pack of organic tofu for under $2 which has 4-5 servings, whereas organic chicken will cost you closer to $8-$10 a pound. Beans cost around $1 for a pound and under $1 for a can if you’re not up for soaking them. Lentils are also a great meat replacer. If you’re a big meat eater now, just try doing a meatless dinner 1-2 nights. My Mexican Casserole or Lentil Loaf are two great examples of meat-free dishes where you won’t miss it!
7.) Check out your Local Parks and Rec.
This is pretty new to me, but a lot of cities and towns offer adult classes through their local Parks and Rec. I always thought most of the offerings were for kids, but they have a ton of things for adults too. The link to my local P&R is here (Arlington, VA) and they offer things like Zumba, Yoga, Swimming, Aerobics, and a variety of other classes for a fraction of the price as taking these classes elsewhere.
8.) Buy things in bulk.
Don’t skip these when you come across them at a store even though they can be intimidating! There are tons of organic products you can buy for under $2 or $3 per pound, and you can get just how much you need rather than a huge package to limit your spending. Some of the best deals I’ve found include quinoa, wheat berries, raisins, almonds, walnuts, steel cut oats, rolled oats, brown rice, lentils, black beans and kidney beans.
9.) Never go somewhere without a list.
Target, Whole Foods, TJ Maxx, any grocery store. Just don’t do it. Even if you don’t 100% stick to the list, don’t wander into a store without a plan or you’ll be buying things you don’t need slash maybe can’t afford.
10.) Ask for fitness/health related gifts for your birthday/holidays!
I don’t know about you, but my family ALWAYS asks me for ideas for things I want for my birthday or Christmas and I can never think of anything good to tell them. Ask for fitness related things you want rather than saying “I don’t know..” or picking things you won’t use! Last year my sisters bought me some amazing yoga pants from Lululemon that I would never have bought for myself, but they are my absolute favorite pair of bottoms to workout in. I’ve also gotten a water belt, CamelBak, sports bras, dry wick tops, and various other fitness related items for birthdays/holidays. I’m always happy to have those things rather than other random items I come up with to ask for.
What’s your #1 tip for living well on a budget?